Child Poverty

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GMPA joins calls for national action on poverty

By Graham Whitham

Even before the devastating impact of Covid-19 on household incomes, child poverty has been rising rapidly in some of the poorest communities in Britain,leaving growing numbers of children cut adrift and ill equipped to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

As a member of the End Child Poverty Coalition, GMPA is joining calls on the Government to take seriously the four year rise in child poverty and to commit to an ambitious and comprehensive strategy to end child poverty in the UK as it plans the nation’s recovery from Coronavirus.

New analysis of government poverty data undertaken by Loughborough University, on behalf of the End Child Poverty Coalition (ECP), tracks four years of child poverty across Britain before housing costs are taken into account (2014/15 – 2018/19). The analysis highlights those parts of the country where children are most likely to have been swept into poverty since 2014.

The research shows that the North West of England experienced the third highest increase in child poverty between 2014/15 to 2018/19 (see table 1), and that the largest increases in child poverty happened in already deprived areas. Among Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities, Oldham saw the largest increases in child poverty as it rose from 28.7% to 38% (see table 2). Stockport and Trafford were the only Greater Manchester boroughs to experiences increases in child poverty lower than the increase across the country as a whole.

Table 1 Change in child poverty by region 2014/15 to 2018/19

RegionChild poverty rate 2014/15Child poverty rate 2018/19% point increase
NORTH EAST17.3%23.7%6.5%
WEST MIDLANDS19.1%23.8%4.7%
NORTH WEST18.5%23.0%4.5%
SOUTH EAST10.8%13.7%2.9%
EAST MIDLANDS16.6%16.6%0.0%
SOUTH WEST15.0%13.4%-1.6%

The pandemic has underlined the need for urgent action to address child poverty. Recent ONS analysis, carried out 17-27 April 2020, found that 23% of adults said the coronavirus was affecting their household finances. The most common impact in this group was reduced income (70%), and nearly half saying they had needed to use savings or borrow to cover living costs. A number of announcements over the last month or so will be helping some people. The government’s furlough scheme and increase in support through Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit will help. Although welcome, these measures are unlikely to be enough to stop the pandemic pushing many households into financial hardship, either in the short or long-term.

There are additional measures GMPA would like to see, and we have been adding our voice to national campaigns calling for changes which include:

  • Substantially increasing Child Benefit. This is the quickest and most efficient means of getting extra money into the pockets of families;
  • Ending the two-child limit that restricts benefit payments to the first two children in the household;
  • Scrapping the benefit cap that limits the total amount of support a household can receive through the benefit system; and
  • Providing extra funding towards council’s local welfare assistance schemes so that they can meet the extra demand for support over the coming weeks and months.

Table 2 Percent of children in households below 60% median, before housing costs,
by local authority 2014/15 to 2018/19

2014/152018/19Percentage point increase,
2014/15 to 2018/19
GB Total15.6%18.4%2.8%


For the full report from ECP, please go to the website

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Assessing the Government’s Food Measures During COVID-19

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By Tom Skinner

A Parliament inquiry last week called for evidence on COVID-19 and food supply. I was asked to help Greater Manchester’s response to this call, answering the question, “Are the Government and food industry doing enough to support people to access sufficient healthy food; and are any groups not having their needs met? If not, what further steps should the Government and food industry take?” Here is what I wrote:

Central Government efforts to provide food for up to 1.5m extremely vulnerable people shielding from COVID 19 is welcome, although there have been challenges around ensuring local authorities are fully aware of who is  in receipt of support from the government’s scheme. This has made it difficult to ensure local responses are coordinated and complementary to the national scheme.

The biggest concern however is that the number of people in need far exceeds that list, both because the criteria exclude some people who have serious health conditions (there should be a larger semi-shielded list of people who, even if they turn down or are ineligible for food packages from the Government, are still prioritised for other services and access to supermarkets), and because they don’t consider low income or other related socioeconomic factors. More than three million people reported going hungry in the first three weeks of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown alone. Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s own survey of food support providers early in the COVID-19 crisis showed increased demand for their services, but concerns about the food supply and a major decrease in volunteer capacity that will have worsened further since the lockdown started.

The £3.25m grant for redistributing surplus food has helped to allay some of the worst fears about food supply to public sector and VCSE food providers, but food banks in several areas of Greater Manchester have still been running dangerously low on supplies and have had to buy food in, either depleting their own cash reserves or relying on bailouts from their local authorities. This financial hit compounds the impact of austerity in which those councils with the most financially vulnerable populations also experienced the harshest cuts, and there is significant concern that the “Fair Funding Review” could continue or even accelerate that trend. These concerns about local authority and voluntary and community and social enterprise (VCSE) finances in Greater Manchester risk undermining the city region’s determination to provide for all of its citizens and to transition out of this crisis with a shared approach to reducing food poverty. A commitment to bolster funding for councils in the future, to meet the needs of their low-income and other vulnerable households (including but not limited to ring-fenced and better funded Local Welfare Assistance Schemes) is a missing pillar of the Government’s COVID-19 response.

Household income itself remains a barrier to accessing food, despite many welcome moves from the Government – the furlough scheme, the end of the benefits freeze, the increase in support through Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit and the extra funding to councils to meet increased demand for support with paying council tax. The removal of the requirement for Healthy Start applications to have a signature from a health worker is welcome, and we encourage the Government to move as quickly as possible to launching the system for online applications, as well as setting targets to increase uptake.

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director writes editorial for GM Poverty Action

However the 5 week wait for Universal Credit continues to increase household food insecurity, as does the 2-child limit. We also advocate substantially increasing Child Benefit and scrapping the benefit cap that limits the total amount of support a household can receive through the benefit system.

Tom Skinner
Director, GM Poverty Action


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Decent Work and The Real Living Wage Post Covid

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By John Hacking

Greater Manchester (GM) went into the Covid-19 crisis as one of the fastest growing economies in the UK and will most likely come out of it in recession.

What does this mean for the campaign for decent work for all workers in GM in general, and the campaign for a Real Living Wage in particular?

It is likely that the economic impact on the GM economy will not be uniform across sectors.

The health and care sector in particular will continue to have a huge focus placed on it and there is clearly an increased sense of social solidarity and support for key workers in this sector and others such as transport and  local municipal services across the wider population. This will provide opportunities to protect the progress that has been made in tackling low pay amongst these workers and to press for improved job quality and pay.

There are, however, other sectors where low pay has traditionally been a problem in Greater Manchester.

Businesses in the ‘foundational economy’ and  particularly those in retail and hospitality will be very adversely affected, with knock on consequences for their employees, most of whom are unlikely to have earned the Real Living Wage even before the Covid-19 crisis. This will not be uniform across the conurbation, as areas that have a larger number of workers in these types of businesses will be more heavily affected.

The response that we make as the Greater Manchester Poverty Action and as the GM Living Wage Campaign will be affected by these changing circumstances. We will need to work with our partners in the Trade Unions, the Local Authorities and other public sector bodies and the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector to ensure that ‘we hold what we have’ in terms of gains made in the past. In addition, we will need to find ways of working together to ensure that we meet the challenges ahead with a well-formed strategy and a sense of common purpose and energy.

GM Mayor Andy Burnham has said that government support for business should be linked to the introduction of better employment standards, including a Real Living Wage. This ‘Build Back Better’ approach is one that needs to shape the economic response across GM and nationally.

The timing and nature of the emergence from the crisis is unknown. The full scale and nature of the economic impact is unknown. The toll on wellbeing and mental health conditions of workers is unknown.

Even given all these unknowns we should start to think and plan for the challenges and opportunities ahead for our campaign and the aspirations of our partners and supporters.

With this in mind GM Living Wage Campaign will be holding a 1 hour online Think Session at 2pm on Wednesday May 13th, 2020. The session will be informal and will focus on thoughts and ideas for the post Covid-19 period both short and long term. If you want to take part please contact me

John Hacking GM Living Wage coordinator for GM Poverty Action

Best Wishes and Stay Safe.

John Hacking,
Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Coordinator


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Supporting food provision

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Supporting coordination of food provision during COVID-19
By Tom Skinner

I represent GMPA on the GM Food Response Core Team*, taking the lead (with 10GM) on understanding VCSE sector food providers’ response to COVID-19, and helping them and local authorities to work together more closely and effectively. GMPA ran a survey of VCSE food providers at the start of the lockdown, providing valuable intelligence to shape each borough’s response systems.

*The Core Team, established last month, includes representatives from the NHS, GM Combined Authority, 10GM, Food Sync, One Manchester and others. Its role is to support the boroughs’ food provision activities, providing intelligence and helping them to learn from each other (and the VCSE sector), and to join up and share resources. It brings Local Authority Food Leads and VCSE infrastructure organisations together in a weekly Food Leads meeting, which feeds into Greater Manchester’s Humanitarian Assistance Group.

At the start of this month I wrote a paper for the Humanitarian Assistance Group recommending actions to support VCSE food providers during the COVID-19 crisis, including:

  1. Assuring a robust supply of food;
  2. Helping to provide access to facilities for storing and distributing chilled and frozen food;
  3. Funding and in-kind resource to maintain and expand activities;
  4. Additional volunteer capacity;
  5. Reliable health and safety guidelines and measures;
  6. Coordination between public services and VCSE food providers.

Half of these recommendations have already been agreed for action, and the others set aside for more detailed discussions in the Food Leads meetings.

I have also been connecting VCSE food providers with local authorities and offers of support such as food, volunteering and equipment.

This role is essential in helping Greater Manchester to make use of the food that is on offer to people in need of support, and I am pleased that our work coordinating the GM Food Poverty Alliance has put us in a position to do this.

However there is much more to be done here, including facilitating meaningful open conversations about the desired long-term set-up, how to tackle the underlying causes of food poverty, and the sustainable roles of local government, VCSE sector food providers, and other stakeholders including people who have experience of food poverty (the 7th recommendation in my paper). I am therefore delighted to be able to share a job opportunity for a Food Poverty Coordinator who will join GMPA’s team and work with me to help Greater Manchester develop an effective response to food poverty, now and in the long-term.

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director writes editorial for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner

Tom Skinner
Director, Greater Manchester Poverty Action


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Could you support GMPA to continue the fight against poverty?

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Principal Partner: Great Places  “Great Places is proud to act as a Principal Partner for GMPA and support the excellent work the group is doing in Manchester. As a housing association with social value at its core, we strive to improve the lives of those living in our communities – whether that’s through financial advice, training and skills support, or helping our customers into employment. We believe that by working together, we can do more – collaboration is key to building a better future for those living in poverty across our city.”

Greater Manchester Poverty Action relies on financial support from our Principal Partners and through funding for project work, such as our work on food poverty and the GM Living Wage Campaign.

With a lot of VCSE sector resource now being redeployed to directly address the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, funding opportunities for organisations undertaking strategic policy and influencing work are likely to be limited in the short term. This has already had an impact on GMPA’s funding position, and we are using the frontpage of today’s newsletter to call for organisations and individuals to support us financially so that we can continue the fight against poverty.

The economic impact of the lockdown is likely to be felt most by those places already experiencing poverty, and more households across the city region will be facing financial insecurity over the coming months. As with all economic shocks, the effects of this current crisis will be felt for years. Addressing this will require a renewed effort and focus on tackling poverty, not just by the government in Westminster but by local decision makers across Greater Manchester.

That’s why we believe the work of GMPA has never been more important. It is vital that we are able to continue supporting stakeholders to tackle poverty, whether its supporting local authorities to develop effective anti-poverty strategies, networking food banks and food clubs or identifying good practice that can be replicated across the whole of the Greater Manchester. We can only continue with this work by growing our Principal Partner  and Supporter schemes.

Our Principal Partners Scheme involves larger financial pledges of support. If this is something you would like to discuss further, please contact us . Principal Partners join the GMPA Advisory Group alongside people with lived experience of poverty. Organisations who sign up as Principal Partners will be listed on our website and will be sent a “Greater Manchester Poverty Action Principal Partner” image for use in their own publicity.

Our Supporters Scheme involves smaller donations and you can sign up by completing this form. Organisations who sign up as supporters will be listed on our website, and will be sent a “Greater Manchester Poverty Action Supporter” image for use in their own publicity.

Graham Whitham
Director, GMPA

Principal Partner: Oxfam  “Tackling poverty and inequality, wherever we find it, is the central mission of Oxfam, including in the UK, so we are very pleased to support the work of GMPA as a lead and convener, working in partnership to challenge policy and practice and make Greater Manchester a fairer place for all, placing the views and experiences of people in poverty at it’s heart”






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Low income families support

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Low income families need more support from the government
By Graham Whitham

At a time of great uncertainly for households up and down the country, GMPA has been supporting calls for the
government to do more to protect families from poverty. This includes adding our support to calls from national
charities, and through campaigns like the End Child Poverty and End Hunger UK.

A number of announcements over the last month or so will be helping some people. The government’s furlough scheme and increase in support through Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit will help. The government has provided extra funding to councils to meet increased demand for support with paying council tax. April also sees the end of the benefits freeze, with benefits uprated by 1.7%.

Although welcome, these measures are unlikely to be enough to stop the pandemic pushing many households into financial hardship, either in the short or long-term. There are additional measures GMPA would like to see, and we will be adding our voice to national campaigns calling for changes which will include:

  • Substantially increasing Child Benefit. This is the quickest and most efficient means of getting extra money into the pockets of families;
  • Ending the two-child limit that restricts benefit payments to the first two children in the household;
  • Scrapping the benefit cap that limits the total amount of support a household can receive through the
    benefit system; and
  • Providing extra funding towards council’s local welfare assistance schemes so that they can meet the extra
    demand for support over the coming weeks and months.


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GMPA’s work in light of the Coronavirus outbreak

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We are living through one of the biggest global health crises of the last 100 years. There is not a single person unaffected by the threat of Coronavirus infection and the measures that have been put in place to keep the virus at bay.

This will be a particularly challenging time for people experiencing poverty, and those at risk of falling into poverty as many of the support services they rely on come under strain and have to adapt to growing levels of need.

At Greater Manchester Poverty Action we are looking to support local authorities and other stakeholders in the city region with responses to the virus, ensuring poverty is taken into account so that people on low incomes are supported as much as possible. We are part of the core team for Greater Manchester’s food response, which is working to support coordinated action on food across GM during the crisis.

Like many organisations, much of our normal work will progress at a slower pace, and all pre-arranged meetings including the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign group have either been postponed or moved to online conference calls. We will endeavour to maintain our regular newsletter, with the next edition after Easter on April 22nd (copy deadline April 15th) and as such we would welcome any articles and links to useful resources that we can include. Please let us have information about your own organisation’s response or situation but especially any positive stories or successes that we can share and that we all need to read at this very difficult time. We have also created a page on our website to help keep people up to date with the work that we are doing and to link through to up to date information and advice.

As we are only a small team with limited resources and capacity, we may not be as responsive to enquiries about other aspects of our work at this time. Additionally, it may not be possible to keep other parts of our website as up to date as we usually would over the coming months. We will do our best.

The government have stepped in with several measures to help people on low incomes and those who face a drop in income. There is more that will need to be done, and we will be supporting national campaigns and policy changes including through the End Child Poverty Coalition and End Hunger UK, to help add our voice to calls to increase support for people facing hardship.

Many thanks to all the people who have completed the two surveys we have been running. The results from the food providers survey have been sent through to a range of stakeholders, including the Combined Authority and the ten local authorities. We are also linking up with the VCSE infrastructure organisations so that they can make best use of the information being gathered.

Please take every possible care and thank you for all that you are doing,

Tom, Graham, John and Chris

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Food Poverty Action Plan Year 1

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Year 1 of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan

By Tom Skinner

GMFPA logo cropped for GM Poverty AllianceIt is a year since we launched the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan with 150 people and organisations who had co-produced the Action Plan in our Food Poverty Alliance project. This article reviews the first year of progress towards the Plan’s vision, that “everyone in Greater Manchester enjoys good food and a better standard of living, and they look out for each other.”

Through the Food Poverty Alliance, 50 individuals and organisations have made over 100 pledges of action towards the Action Plan’s vision, including:

  • Apex Storage making five storage units available for individuals and businesses to donate unwanted cooking
    and gardening equipment
    that Cracking Good Food pass on to communities in need;
  • Kellogg’s reaching 70 local schools with breakfast club grants;
  • Sow the City mapping food provision in North Manchester – they have recently been commissioned to map in
    South Manchester as well, and aim to support mapping across GM;
  • The Salford Food Share Network supporting other boroughs to consider the potential for partnerships between
    food banks, food clubs and pantries, advice agencies, the council and other stakeholders;
  • Several Housing associations, councils and charities coordinating provision of food with activities for children
    and young people during school holidays.

We are working closely with most councils across GM, as well as GM Mayor Andy Burnham, the GM Combined Authority and the Health & Social Care Partnership, to discuss actions that can be taken by the public sector at the GM and borough level. For example, Tameside has:

  • established a strategic food partnership with food poverty as one of its themes;
  • included questions about food poverty in its public consultation survey and commissioned qualitative research
    to help understand how food poverty impacts residents, and the challenges for food banks and food pantries;
  • taken action (which is ongoing) to increase uptake of Healthy Start vouchers.

Another important activity has been to embed food poverty, and the Action Plan specifically, in the wider efforts to develop a comprehensive food strategy for the city region. These efforts are being led by GM’s strategic food board Good Food Greater Manchester, of which GMPA is a member. We are currently exploring how efforts to tackle food poverty can complement other sections of the food strategy, and are supporting a series of workshops to develop a cohesive and widely supported strategy.

Since the launch of the Action Plan, GMPA has seen encouraging increased interest in tackling poverty at a local level. Some local authorities are developing and implementing anti-poverty strategies, and there is significant interest in engaging people with lived experience of poverty in decision making e.g. through poverty truth commissions. We continue to campaign for employers across the city region to tackle in-work poverty by becoming accredited Living Wage Employers and signing up to the GM Good Employment Charter. There are now over 200 accredited Living Wage Employers based here, including Salford, Oldham and Manchester councils – see page 2 for more news from the GM Living Wage Campaign, another GMPA project.

Tom Skinner editorial article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, Director, GM Poverty Action

While I am delighted with the progress made in the first year of the Action Plan, there is much more to be done and GMPA remains committed to tackling food poverty and its underlying causes.

Tom Skinner,
Director, GM Poverty Action


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Tackling poverty: NHS

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Help us to inform the way the NHS tackles poverty

On March 27th, our director Graham Whitham will be attending a workshop at the King’s Fund in London exploring what more the NHS can do to tackle poverty. The workshop will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders with knowledge, expertise and experience of working with those in poverty, people from the NHS, and those who work in partnership with it.

The NHS Long-Term Plan sets out important commitments to reducing inequalities in health.  As part of this NHS England and Improvement want to do more to understand and maximise the NHS’ role in tackling poverty. This builds on previous work, including the King’s Fund report, Tackling poverty: Making more of the NHS in England, which set out how the NHS can tackle the risk of, and mitigate the impact of poverty in many ways, from its treatment impact to its role as an economic giant in every community.

This workshop will help inform:

  • the development of practical resources for local NHS leaders and institutions
  • strengthening the strategic case for the NHS to see tackling poverty as a core issue
  • supporting the NHS to work more closely with partners on poverty, with ultimate impacts in improving the
    health of those in, or at risk of, poverty

The King’s Fund will co-host this workshop with the Equality and Health Inequalities Team at NHS England and

GMPA is keen to support this work, and we know there is a lot of learning from work in Greater Manchester that could help inform the conversation. With the publication of the recent Marmot: Ten years on report, it is vital that we make stronger links between health and poverty.

In order to contribute as much as we can to the workshop we are asking people in our network to share information with us in advance. Graham will feed this into the discussion on March 27th, crediting organisations and individuals where appropriate.

Graham W NHS tackling poverty article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham
Director of GMPA

Please share any good examples of current or recent case studies, reports or wider work where the NHS has tackled poverty successfully with partners in Greater Manchester. If you have a report/project site/short description of the work you are doing that you would be willing to share, please email Graham  by Friday March 20th.


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Training Opportunities

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Training opportunities on poverty

GMPA is working in partnership with Policy North Training to provide training to organisations working to address poverty across the city region and the rest of the UK. We aim to support organisations to better understand some of the complexities around poverty and enable them to improve policy and practice as a result. Courses currently open to bookings are:

Our Maximising support for people on low incomes course will run on February 28th, April 28th and October 8th, 2020. This course is for VCSE and public sector organisations who work with people experiencing poverty and who wish to understand how to maximise support for their service users and those involved in service design and delivery. To book your place on this course click here.

The extremely popular Understanding poverty measurement, definitions and data course will run on March 12th and November 18th, 2020. This course is for organisations who wish to strengthen the case for their work by presenting accurate and relevant data about poverty to funders, supporters and policy and decision makers. To book your place on this course click here.

Our Exploring the Poverty Premium course is running on March 18th, 2020. Attendees on this half day course will be able to better understand the poverty premium, the way it affects customers, clients and consumers and how they can amend and ‘poverty proof’ their practices. To book your place on this course click here.

We aim to keep the cost of attending courses low, whilst looking to grow and develop our training offer and raise revenue for GMPA’s activities. All courses take place in central Manchester unless otherwise stated.


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